The Internet Explained
By Dave Barry
Q. What, exactly, is the Internet?
A. The Internet is a worldwide network of university, government,
business, and private computer systems.
Q. Who runs it?
A. A 13-year-old named Jason.
Q. How can I get on the Internet?
A. The easiest way is to sign up with one of the popular commercial
"on-line" services, such as Prodigy, CompuServe, or America
Online, which will give you their program disks for free. Or,
if you just leave your house unlocked, they'll sneak in some
night and install their programs on your computer when you're
sleeping. They really want your business.
Q. What are the benefits of these services?
A. The major benefit is that they all have simple, "user-friendly"
interfaces that enable you-even if you have no previous
computer experience-to provide the on-line services with the
information they need to automatically put monthly charges on
your credit card bill forever.
Q. What if I die?
A. They don't care.
Q. Can't I cancel my account?
A. Of course! You can cancel your account at anytime.
A. Nobody has ever been able to find out. Some of us have been trying
for ears to cancel our on-line service accounts, but no matter
what we do, the charges keep appearing on our bills. We're
thinking of entering the Federal Witness Protection Program.
Q. What if I have children?
A. You'll want an anesthetic, because it really hurts.
Q. No, I mean: What if my children also use my Internet account?
A. You should just sign your house and major internal organs over to
the on-line service right now.
Q. Aside from running up charges, what else can I do once I'm connected
to an on-line service?
A. Millions of things! An incredible array of things! No end of things!
Q. Like what?
A. You can ... ummmm ... OK! I have one! You can chat.
Q. I can already chat. I chat with my friends.
A. Yes, but on the Internet, which connects millions of people all over
the entire globe, you can chat with total strangers, many of
whom are boring and stupid!
Q. Sounds great! How does it work?
A. Well, first you decide which type of area you wish to chat in. Some
areas are just for general chatting, and some are for specific
interest groups, such as Teens, Poets, Cat Lovers, Religious
People, Gays, Gay Teens Who Read Religious Poetry to Cats, and
of course Guys Having Pointless Arguments About Sports. At any
given moment, an area can contain anywhere from two to dozens
of people, who use clever fake names such as "ByteMe2" so
nobody will know their real identities.
Q. What are their real identities?
A. They represent an incredible range of people, people of all ages, in
all kinds of fascinating fields from scientists to singers,
from writers to wranglers, from actors to athletes - you could
be talking to almost anybody on the Internet!
A. No. You re almost always talking to losers and hormone-crazed
13-year-old boys. But they pretend to be writers, wranglers,
scientists, singers, etc.
Q. What do people talk about in chat areas? A. Most chat-area discussions revolve around the fascinating topic of who is entering and leaving the chat area. A secondary, but equally fascinating, topic is where everybody lives. Also, for a change of pace, every now and then the discussion is interrupted by a hormone-crazed 13-year-old boy wishing to talk dirty to women. To give you an idea of how scintillating the repartee can be, here's a re-creation of a typical chat area dialogue (do not read this scintillating repartee while operating heavy machinery):
LilBrisket: Hi everybody
Wazootyman: Hi LilBrisket
Toadster: Hi Bris
Lungftook: Hi B
LilBrisket: What's going on?
Toadster: Not much
Lungftook: Pretty quiet
Wazootyman: Anybody here from Texas?
UvulaBob: Hi everybody
Toadster: Hi UvulaBob
Lungftook: Hi Uvula
LilBrisket: Hi UB
Wazootyman: Hi U
UvulaBob: What's happening?
LilBrisket: Kinda slow
Toadster: Same old same old
Lungflook: Pretty quiet
Jason56243837: LilBrisket, take off your panties
LilBrisket: OK, but I'm a man
Wazootyman: UvulaBob, are you from Texas?
Lungftook: Well, gotta run.
Toadster.- 'bye, Lungflook
LilBrisket: Take 'er easy, Lungster
Wazootyman: See ya around, Lung
UvulaBob: So long, L
PolypMaster: Hi everybody
LilBrisket: Hey, PolypMaster
Toadster: Yo, Polyp
UvulaBob: Hi, P
PolypMaster: What's going on?
LilBrisket: Not much
Toadster: Pretty quiet
UvulaBob: Kinda slow ...
And so it goes in the chat areas, hour after riveting hour, where the
ideas flow fast and furious, and at any moment you could learn some
fascinating nugget of global-network information, such as whether or
not PolypMaster comes from Texas.
Q. I've heard that people sometimes use Internet chat areas to have
"cybersex." What exactly is that?
A. This is when two people send explicitly steamy messages to each
other, back and forth, back and forth, faster and faster,
hotter and hotter, faster and faster and hotter and harder
and harder until OHHHH GODDDDDDDD they suddenly find that
they have a bad case of sticky keyboard, if you get my drift.
Q. That's disgusting!
Q. Could you give an example?
Born2Bone: I want you NOW
HunniBunni: I want YOU now
Born2Bone: I want to take off your clothes
HunniBunni: Yes! YES!
Born2Bone: I'm taking off your clothes
HunniBunni: OH YESSSS
HunniBunni: Is something wrong?
Born2Bone: I can't unhook your brassiere
HunniBunni: I'll do it
Born2Bone: Thanks. Oh my god! I'm touching your, umm, your...
HunniBunni: Copious bosoms?
Born2Bone: Yes! Your copious bosoms! I'm touching them!
Born2Bone: Both of them!
Born2Bone: I'm taking off your panties!
HunniBunni: You already did.
Born2Bone: Oh, OK. You're naked! I'm touching your entire nakedness!
Wazootyman: Anybody here from Texas?
Born2Bone: I am becoming turgid in my manfulness!
HunniBunni: YES! YES YOU ARE!! YOU ARE A BULL! YOU ARE MY GREAT BIG
RAGING BULL STALLION!
Wazootyman: Hey, thanks
HunniBunni: Not you
Born2Bone: I AM A STALLION! I AM A RAGING, BULGING BULL STALLION, AND I AM
THRUSTING MY ... MY ... ummm ...
HunniBunni: Your love knockwurst?
Born2Bone: YES! I AM THRUSTING MY LOVE KNOCKWURST INTO YOUR ... YOUR...
HunniBunni: Promise you won't laugh?
HunniBunni: My passion persimmon
Born2Bone: Ha ha!
HunniBunni: You promised!
Born2Bone: Sorry. OK, here goes: I AM THRUSTING MY MASSIVE KNOCKWURST
OF LOVE INTO YOUR PASSION PERSIMMON!
HunniBunni: YES! YES! YES!
Born2Bone: OHHH! IT FEELS SO GOOD!! I FEEL POWERFUL!!
HunniBunni: YOU ARE POWERFUL, BORN2BONE!! I FEEL YOUR POWER INSIDE ME!!!
Born2Bone: IT FEELS LIKE, LIKE ...
HunniBunni: Like what?
Born2Bone: IT FEELS JUST LIKE, OHMIGOD ... OHMIGOD ...
HunniBunni: TELL ME, BORN2BONE!! TELL WHAT IT FEELS LIKE!!
Born2Bone: OH LORD IT FEELS LIKE... IT FEELS LIKE WHEN I BREAK A TIE VOTE IN
HunniBunni: What did you say?
HunniBunni: It feels like when you break a tie vote in the Senate?
Born2Bone: Umm, listen, what I meant was ...
HunniBunni: This is you, isn't it, Al? ISN'T IT?? YOU JERK!!! YOU TOLD ME YOU
WERE ATTENDING A STATE FUNERAL THIS AFTERNOON!!!
Q. Aside from chatting, what else can I do on the Internet?
A. You can join one of the thousands of forums wherein people, by posting
messages, discuss political topics of the day.
Q. Like what?
A. Barry Manilow.
Q. There's a forum for Barry Manilow?
A. There's a forum for everything.
Q. What happens on these forums?
A. Well, on the Barry Manilow forum, for example, fans post messages about
how much they love Barry Manilow, and other fans respond by posting
messages about how much they love Barry Manilow, too. And then
sometimes the forum is invaded by people posting messages about how
much they hate Barry Manilow, which in turn leads to angry
countermessages and vicious name-calling that can go on for months.
Q. Just like junior high school!
A. But even more pointless.
Q. Are there forums about sex?
A. Zillions of them.
Q. What do people talk about on those?
A. Barry Manilow.
Q. No, really.
A. OK, they talk about sex, but it is not all titillating. Often you'll
find highly scientific discussions that expand the frontiers of human
Q. It is a beautiful thing, the Internet.
A. It is.
Q. What is the "World Wide Web"?
A. The World Wide Web is the multimedia version of the Internet, where you
can get not only text but also pictures and sounds on a semi-infinite
range of topics. This information is stored on "Web pages," which are
maintained by companies, institutions, and individuals. Using special
software, you can navigate to these pages and read, look at, or listen
to all kinds of cool stuff.
Q. Wow! How can I get on the Web?
A. It's easy! Suppose you're interested in buying a boat from an
Australian company that has a Web page featuring pictures and
specifications of its various models. All you have to do is fire up
your World Wide Web software and type in the company's Web page address,
which will probably be an intuitive, easy-to-remember string of
characters like this:
Q. What if I type one single character wrong?
A. You will launch U.S. nuclear missiles against Norway.
A. But assuming you type in the correct address, you merely press
Enter, and there you are!
A. Sitting in front of your computer waiting for something to happen. It
could take weeks. Entire new continents can emerge from the ocean in
the time it takes for a Web page to show up on your screen. Contrary to
what you may have heard, the Internet does not operate at the speed of
light; it operates at the speed of the Department of Motor Vehicles..
It might be quicker for you to just go over to Australia and look at
the boats in person.
Q. Does that mean that the World Wide Web is useless?
A. Heck no! If you're willing to be patient, you'll find that you can utilize
the vast resources of the Web to waste time in ways that you
never before dreamed possible.
Q. For example?
A. For example, recently I was messing around with a "Web browser," which is
a kind of software that lets you search all of cyberspace - millions
of documents for references to a specific word or group of words. You
can find pretty much everything that anybody has ever written on the
Internet about that topic; it's an incredibly powerful research tool.
Q. That is truly beautiful.
A. Yes. And it's just one teensy little piece, one infinitesimally tiny
fraction, of the gigantic, pulsating, mutating, multiplying mass of
stuff out there on the Internet. Sooner or later, everything is going
to be on there somewhere. You should be on there, too. Don't be
afraid! Be like the bold explorer Christopher Columbus, (E-mail
address: ChrisCol@nina,pinta&santamaria.ahoy) setting out into
uncharted waters, fearful of what you might encounter, but also
mindful of the old inspirational maritime saying: "If you don't leave
the land, then you'll probably never have a chance to get scurvy and
develop anemia, spongy gums, and bleeding from the mucous membranes."
So come on! join me and millions of others on this exciting CyberFrontier,
with its limitless possibilities for the enhancement of knowledge and the
betterment of the human race!
Wazootyman is waiting for you.